Being paid $1.2 million for every episode would be enough for anyone to get down to work, you would imagine. Charlie Sheen, the now infamous lead of ‘Two and a Half Men‘ shot himself in inconvenient places when he called his producer names and ranted that the only reason the show as a hit was because he was in it. Calling his bluff, the production house cancelled it altogether, leaving Sheen and a pretty large cast and crew temporarily unemployed. It’s not as if actors have not had ‘creative differences’ and got thrown out of other shows. It’s just that this particular spat was played out in the full glare of the media and it just doesn’t seem to stop. Sheen has threatened to sue for $100 million – on what grounds, it is difficult to imagine. The remarkable thing is that Sheen’s rants may have actually improved his marketability as an actor, since he is now permanently in the news.
Grant McCraken has a post that explores the view that celebrities are trapped in their own image and can never break free. You can be famous or infamous, but you can never return to anonymity – or become ‘unfamous’. I’m not so sure you can’t. There are several actors who were so famous in their heyday they had girls write fan letters in blood for them. Rajesh Khanna, the loverboy of the 70s degenerated into a fat, forgotten and forlorn figure. Kumar Gaurav, a one hit wonder from the early 80s, disappeared into the crowd after he was touted as the next superstar when his debut Hindi film ‘Love Story’ ( Not to be confused with the Ali McGraw- Ryan O Neal pairing) became a big hit. In some of these cases, they became invisible in spite of their best efforts to grab the limeleight again.
So celebrity is not something that even those with their feet firmly planted in stardom can afford to take for granted. Fame is a merciless temptress, dismissive and enticing by turns. There are no rules for what is successful and what isn’t. Even in the case of Sheen, he would not have imagined that this would get as big as it has. Time is a great leveller and the world today has a lot to turn to. Tiger Woods is teetering after a meteoric rise, a burn out of mythic proportions when the stories of his infedility broke and indifferent form after his much anticipated return. Today, Tiger is ordinary, just as mortal and flawed as the rest of us with the veneer of invincibility wiped clean.